To get three wins from the same opposition in four nights was always going to be a challenge for the Belfast Giants. And so it proved. Despite two convincing wins over the Glasgow Clan at the SSE Arena, one confirming the Giants return to the Challenge Cup Final, the Clan were able to regroup and further solidify their 3rd spot in the EIHL with a shout out 5-0 win over Adam Keefe’s side. The first time the Giants have failed to hit the back of the net this season.
In a game fraught with inevitable edge due to the 9 consecutive periods of hockey, the Clan were able to capitalise in their own rink.
A blank first period, punctuated by the departure of Patrick Dwyer following another apparent knee collision, was followed by a mid period collapse by the Giants from which they never recovered.
Vaclav Stupka picking up his own rebound as a shot from the slot was bounced back into his path by Tyler Beskorowany and the Clans forward made sure with his second attempt to make it 1-0 (Assist: Beca, Erhardt, 23:47).
A few minutes later Clan captain, Zack Fitzgerald, took umbrage with a hit from Kevin Raine that put Fitzgerald head first into the boards. The ensuing fight was a non-event with Raine tying Fitzgerald up in his own jersey. The Clan captain was visibly unhappy with the officiating, and more irate when he was assessed the additional 2+10 for instigation.
Yet the Clan were to increase their lead despite being on the Penalty Kill. A poor change at the back end of the powerplay by the Giants allowed 3 of the clans 4 men to enter the zone against 2 defensemen Rasmus Bjerrum had time and space in the left circle to shoot at the Giants goal and find the twine shorthanded and make it 2-0 (Assist: Wilson, Erhardt, 26:10).
Less than 3 minutes later and the Giants had a mountain to climb, a turn over in the right corner of the Giants zone allowed Bjerrum to find Zach Sullivan at point. Sullivans slap along the ice was going wide but caught the stick of the traversing Gerard Hanson whose tip pit it by Beskorowany and made it 3-0. (Assist: Sullivan, Bjerrum, 28:50)
The fourth goal came at the back end of the period. Beskorowany was brought down with a suspicion of a slew foot before the move, yet the play back up the ice from hook was broken down by Hanson who found Stupka cross ice. Stupka and Scott Pitt carried the puck quickly into the Giants zone and the pass from the former to the latter was too quick for Beskorowany to track, nor was there a Giants d-man to cover and the game was 4-0 from the Pitt finish. (Assist: Hanson, Stupka, 39:00)
Kyle Baun was to get 2mins for his protest on the move, and as the period wore out, Zack Fitzgerald was to be told that he was not to return to the game, receiving a game misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The third period was to be a toil as the Giants struggled to break down a tight Clan D, and it was to be Brendan Connolly who was to finish the nights scoring on the powerplay. A shot through traffic hit the back of the net and put the Clan 5-0 to the good (Assists: Beca, Pitt, 54:35).
It was also going to be the end of the night for Tyler Beskorowany as Stephen Murphy took to the pipes to close out the night.
A difficult game for the Giants who now need to regroup as the Cardiff Devils visit the SSE Arena on Friday and Saturday for two pivotal games in the title race. While Pete Russell’s Clan look to solidify 3rd place in the playoff standings by continuing their rich vein of form.
Words: Patrick Smyth
Pictures: Al Goold